May Mobility in Ann Arbor and New York City’s Via will launch the first public transit project using American Disability Act (ADA)-compliant AVs in rural Grand Rapids, Minn.
The companies’ goal for the project is to demonstrate that AVs reach their greatest societal impact when used for public transportation. The deployment will allow anyone to book a free, on-demand, shared ride from an AV. The project also will advance the deployments of AVs in rural terrains and diverse and sometimes harsh weather conditions.
“We’re passionate about making transportation better for everyone, and providing innovative, accessible transportation solutions to rural communities is a key next step in that journey,” says Edwin Olson, CEO at May Mobility. “May Mobility and Via are proud to bring cutting-edge technology and services to Grand Rapids with the first commercial fleet of Toyota Sienna Autono-MaaS vehicles.”
May Mobility’s fleet in Grand Rapids will mark the first commercial launch of the Toyota Sienna Autono-MaaS platform, including the first ADA-compliant versions of the vehicle that the company announced earlier this year.
“Via is proud to partner with May Mobility for the new Grand Rapids site launch, which advances our shared belief that AVs are most impactful when they are accessible, shared, and complementary to a community’s public transit system,” says Israel Duanis, head of autonomous vehicles at Via. “Via is committed to supporting rural connectivity for riders of all needs. We believe that Grand Rapids will serve as a pioneer for how autonomous, innovative mobility can transform the way small communities move.”
Powered by Via’s AI-based booking and routing algorithms, on-demand rides are available to anyone through the Via app (available on iOS and Android), which matches riders headed in the same direction into one vehicle to create efficient, flexible shared trips. Throughout the city, more than 70 pick-up and drop-off locations have been identified and established based on popular travel patterns and community input, which helped shape the service zone, hours of operation and other considerations. Riders without smartphones can also book by calling 211.
While rides are open to all, they are designed to serve those without a private car or who have mobility challenges — with the aim of using technology to help everyone achieve an independent lifestyle supported by convenient travel, regardless of income or ability.
This project will expand mobility access for the Grand Rapids community by complementing the town’s existing fixed-route bus lines and will cover nearly 17 square miles, allowing residents and visitors to easily connect with the city’s restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacies, churches, fitness centers, and more. The service also will provide coverage on weekday nights and weekends when other options aren’t available.